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Review 2 of "Victim refuses to cooperate: A mixed methods examination of complainant cooperation in sexual assault cases involving adolescent victims"


Published onDec 22, 2020
Review 2 of "Victim refuses to cooperate: A mixed methods examination of complainant cooperation in sexual assault cases involving adolescent victims"

Vote: Reject

[For votes to count, referees must reasonably explain why they voted as they did. Thus, please explain your vote. If you voted to publish pending minor changes, specify each change, why it is needed, and, possibly, how it should/could be done.]

This is a well written manuscript on an interesting topic.  The paper is competently executed and speaks well to the abilities of the authors.

I have some concerns about the dependent cooperation variable.  There are real limitations to coding this as a yes/no binary response.  It would be helpful to know if this was passive or active cooperation-- was the detective unable to reach the victim? Or did the victim explicitly express that she did not want to cooperate?  I would imagine that there are real differences between these two groups of victims. I also wonder about other reasons why a victim would choose not to cooperate and whether police response -this is difficult to tell from quantitative analysis. I am not sure that I understand the value of this piece of the manuscript.

I also have some questions about the category of 12-17. I have to imagine that the decision making for 17 year olds is very different for 12 year olds.  I wonder how the cases are distributed across the age range and if there are differences.

My biggest concern is relying on the police description of why the victims refuses to cooperate. It can help explain why cases fall out of the system but looking at victim perceptions through the lens of the police is problematic.  In particular, I look at Theme 1: Not interested in continuing/wants to put matter behind them and I wonder about consultation with the prosecutor and what feedback the victim also got from the detective.   The literature suggests that cases that prosecutors especially might try to talk victims out of pursuing complaints for cases that they view as difficult to prove.  This is especially salient in LA, where Spohn and Tellis found a great amount of informal communication between detectives and prosecutors. 

I wonder how the downstream orientation of CJ actors affects how they approach victims-- and more to the point for this study, how it affects notes written by police and included in their casefiles.  This seems particularly important because Theme 1 encompassed the most victims in their sample. The authors mention all of this in their limitations section but I worry that it is a fatal flaw.

There is no mention of victim advocates and I wonder what role they play with adolescent victims.

The authors write that "complainants were more likely to cooperate if a parent or relative was witness to the crime. This finding may suggest that adolescent complainants need additional support structures in place to fully cooperate with the CL process. " Could it also be that these are the cases that police and prosecutors are more likely to win in court and victims received more support from the CJ system?

Also, the authors don't include the work by Morabito et al. 2018 who also included adolescents in their study since it was a larger and much more recent replication of the Spohn and Tellis 2008 study.  I am perplexed why their findings regarding adolescents are not included here.


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